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Section 10A ... The Contemporary Church
Counterfeit Revivals

 

003white   Section 10 A  The  Contemporary Church   >    Doctrines of Demons   >   Counterfeit Revivals   >   Toronto Blessing

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Counterfeit

The Toronto Deception

The origins, progress and underlying erroneous doctrines of the phenomenon. A masterful expose of the deception.

by Dr Nick Needham
Highland Theological College, Dingwall, Scotland

ON THIS PAGE

PART ONE

What is the Toronto Blessing?
What are the Origins of the Toronto Blessing?
How did the Toronto Blessing arrive in Toronto?

PART TWO

TB experiences in other religions
The Distinctive Features of true Christian experience
Hypnotic forces
Physical power points
Demonic influences
Summary and conclusion

 

 

PART ONE

1. What is the Toronto Blessing?
The Toronto Blessing (or TB, as it is now often called) is a worldwide spiritual movement within Pentecostal and charismatic churches. It is named after the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada, where the movement first hit the headlines in January 1994. Its advocates claim that the Blessing is a "sovereign move of God", a new and glorious work of the Holy Spirit. Many of them call it a "revival." However, others, conscious that scarcely any unbelievers are being converted through this movement, do not call it a revival, but a "renewal" of the Church. Many of them add that this renewal of the Church is being done by God as a prelude to a revival. Others claim that this is more than a mere renewal of the Church; it is God bringing to birth a new super-Church for the end times—a view which fits in with the doctrine known as "Latter-Rain Restorationism," which has been around in Pentecostal and charismatic circles for some time. The claim is also made by many advocates of the TB that those who resist this great move of God will, if they persevere in their resistance, be guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and various dreadful things will happen to them. What exactly will happen is often left rather vague; the language used is that opposers will be "swept aside," "crushed," that sort of thing. On his video, The Coming Revival, Rodney Howard-Browne warns that opposers will be struck dumb and blind.

What then is this great blessing that God is allegedly pouring out on His Church at this time? According to its advocates, it is a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit which can be compared with the day of Pentecost. This outpouring happens when a leader, who has already received the blessing himself, then passes it on to others, usually in a meeting of a church or in a larger gathering of believers from various churches. These leaders, especially the more well-known ones, are often referred to as "anointed men," and the blessing itself is also often called the "anointing," or a "fresh anointing." Sometimes the anointed leader will simply call down the blessing on the entire gathering; more usually, people will be asked to walk to the front, where the leader and his team will lay hands on them, and transmit the blessing to them physically. A few of the leaders have stranger and more dramatic methods of passing on the blessing, e.g. blowing on people, hurling the blessing at people by dramatic hand gestures, or even transmitting the blessing into a tea-towel and then throwing the tea-towel at someone.

TB advocates claim that the blessing or anointing has two main effects on believers: (i) It brings them a fresh and overwhelming sense of God's love, which leads to wonderful joy; (ii) It lifts people up to new heights of spiritual life, so that they begin to walk much closer to God, praying more, reading the Bible more, evangelising more, etc.

If we look at what actually happens when people receive the blessing the immediate observable effects—we see the following:

(i) Almost without exception, people fall over onto their backs, sometimes gently, sometimes as if struck by a bolt of electricity. Those who fall sometimes black out. This phenomenon has of course been around for a long time in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, and is referred to as being "slain in the Spirit."

[Also See Slain In The Spirit and Related Manifestations
Compared to The Ancient and Occult Practice of A Kundalini Awakening in Hinduism]

(ii) Often those affected are seized by a spirit of uncontrollable laughter. This laughter can last literally for days. On The Coming Revival video, Rodney Howard-Browne reports a man who (to use his language) got drunk on the Holy Spirit and laughed uncontrollably for 3 days. This particular phenomenon is referred to as "holy laughter," and it has been so widespread in the TB that it has sometimes been called "the laughing revival."

(iii) Often, but by no means always, when the blessing is imparted in a meeting, some will respond by making noises and bodily movements like various animals. In the early days of the TB, the most common of these animal manifestations was "roaring like a lion." However, this is in fact only one of many animal manifestations which have been observed. I myself have witnessed people gibbering like monkeys, barking like dogs, howling like wolves, and screeching like cats. Here is a description by a person who is in favour of the TB:

    That room sounded like it was a cross between a jungle and a farmyard. There were many lions roaring, there were bulls bellowing, there were donkeys, there was a cockerel near me, there were sort of bird songs ... Everything you could possibly imagine, every animal you could conceivably imagine you could hear. [1]

There are other physical phenomena, such as holy drunkenness (staggering about as though drunk), dancing in the Spirit (tap-dancing, ballet dancing), running on the spot, and bouncing up and down like a grasshopper. However, these three—falling over, hysterical laughter and animal manifestations—these are the main physical manifestations of the blessing or anointing.

As for the inner spiritual or emotional experience, there is no reason to doubt that many people do feel an overwhelming sense of being loved, and tremendous feelings of joy and euphoria. The only question is how these emotional experiences should be interpreted, a question we will return to later. [Also See Tongues... Gift Of What Spirit?]
 

2. What are the origins of the Toronto Blessing?
The TB originated within something called the Faith Movement in the U.S.A. The Faith Movement is better known in this country as the "health, wealth and prosperity gospel," because of its teaching that Christ has delivered believers from the curse of poverty and sickness. These are seen as evil powers from which Christ has liberated us by His work of atonement, so that all true believers ought to be living in a state of perfect health and material prosperity. However, this is only one aspect of what the Father Movement teaches. In a moment we'll look at a wider and fuller picture of the doctrines. First, though, let's introduce ourselves to the leading Faith Movement teachers.

These men have book, audiotape, video and satellite ministries that literally span the world. Their influence within the Pentecostal and charismatic movements is large and growing. I was recently in the bookshop of the Kensington Temple in London, one of London's most prominent Pentecostal churches, and the bookshop was selling hundreds of books and tapes by people like Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne, Morris Cerullo, Paul Yonggi Cho, Marilyn Hickey and others. The Faith Movement is also very widespread in Third World countries, e.g. Nigeria, where I spent 5 months last year. Morris Cerullo is very popular with Nigerians.

As I've indicated on the chart, almost all the spiritual phenomena and experiences which are now called the TB were in fact already taking place under the ministries of men like Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne and Kenneth Copeland years before the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church took these things on board. I've especially singled out these three men, because it was Rodney Howard-Browne who transmitted the blessing or anointing to the Toronto Airport Vineyard, and Howard-Browne has been closely linked with the ministries of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland.

Now, before we look at how the blessing made its way from the Faith Movement to Toronto, let's get a clearer picture of what the Faith Movement actually believes and teaches—what its doctrines are. In his book Christianity in Crisis, Hank Hanegraaf sums up Faith Movement theology by using the mnemonic FLAWS. This stands for Faith in faith, Little gods, Atonement atrocities, Wealth and want, Sickness and suffering. We can summarise these teachings thus:

[The blasphemous ideas set forth in the five paragraphs which follow, it must be realized, are those of the Faith Movement teachers, people who nonetheless call themselves Christians, and whose doctrines are at the root of the TB—warning from The Shepherd editor]

Faith in faith: "Faith" is an independent spiritual force, a basic law of the universe. God Himself is a "faith God:" He created the universe by His faith. This involved God in visualising the universe in His imagination, and then speaking it into existence with "faith-filled words"—saying "Let it be" and believing that it would be. Man also can use the same power and create his own reality. This involves visualising what you want, and then speaking it into existence with faith in your creative words ("Positive confession"—sometimes called "Name it and claim it"). This force of faith is such a basic law of life that people of any religious belief can use it and get results. Christians must simply learn how to do what others (e.g. in the the New Age movement) are already doing.

Little gods: Adam in paradise was God's equal; he was "God manifested in the flesh," the god of planet earth. Man has no independent nature of his own; all he can do is share either in God's nature or Satan's. By giving in to Satan, Adam lost his godhead to the devil who thus became (quite rightly and legally) "the god of this world." And by his sin, Adam experienced a diabolical rebirth, acquiring Satan's nature. But through Christ, man regains his lost godhead and becomes as much an incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was. The believer is another Christ. Incidentally, many "Faith" teachers, eg. Rodney Howard-Browne, say that Christ abandoned His true deity when He became man. On earth, He merely partook of God's nature in the same sense that innocent Adam did, as a perfect man. Jesus was not God in the flesh, but a Spirit-filled "prophet under the Abrahamic covenant."

Atonement atrocities: Most Faith Movement teachers deny that Christ's death on the cross saves sinners. What really happened on the cross was that Jesus actually became sinful: He took on Himself the spiritual nature of Satan, thus being transformed from a divine to a demonic being—the same thing that had happened to Adam in Eden. This doctrine of the cross is often referred to in shorthand as "JDS"—"Jesus died spiritually." The real atonement took place after Jesus died. For the demonised spirit of Jesus literally went into hell itself, where He was tortured by demons for three days and three nights. Then Jesus was spiritually reborn in hell, recovering His lost divinity and defeating Satan. The same rebirth is granted to the believer, who is thus liberated from his satanic nature and becomes a god.

Wealth and want: Poverty is part of the curse of the law from which Christ has delivered believers. Christ Himself, when he was on earth, was a millionaire; he had so much money that He had to appoint Judas as His finance manager, and the reason why no-one noticed that Judas was stealing was because there was just so much money in the money-bag. Many Faith teachers require their followers to give them money with the promise that God will repay them tenfold. Such giving is called "sowing a seed of faith,"

Sickness and suffering: These too are demonic powers from which Christ has delivered believers. We must then claim our healing by faith, speak our health into existence by positive confession. Because man is essentially a spirit who merely lives in a body, sickness and healing are essentially spiritual and not bodily realities. So if physical symptoms of illness persist after we have claimed our healing, that is Just what our bodily senses tell us; we must deny this sense-knowledge by the higher spirit-knowledge of faith, which knows that healing has truly occurred in the spiritual realm.

You will gather from all this that the Faith Movement's belief in health, wealth and prosperity is only one of its many false doctrines. Far more serious are its heretical teachings about God, Christ and salvation.

Now the question we need to ask ourselves about all this, the $64,000 question, is this: If these Faith Movement leaders teach deadly heresy and destructive error, how can it be the Holy Spirit that is at work in their meetings and ministries? Remember that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth:

    When the Helper comes, Whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. (St. John 15:26).

    He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it unto you (St. John 16:14).

But these Faith teachers do not teach the truth about Christ, and they do not glorify the Christ of the Scriptures, but a christ of their imaginations: a christ who was not almighty God in the flesh, a christ who was a millionaire, a christ who became demonised on the cross and atoned for sin "spiritually" in hell rather than by His blood, a christ who was only the incarnation of God in the sense that (according to them) every believer is an incarnation of God. It is no wonder that Bible-believing scholars and theologians like Hank Hanegraaf, Dan McConnell and others have concluded that the Faith Movement gospel is a "different gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). So what we are faced with in the Faith Movement is another gospel, another Jesus and another Spirit. The true Holy Spirit of God would never honour, sanction, or give credence to the ministries of people who teach poisonous error. Whatever spiritual power is at work through men like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Rodney Howard-Browne, one must conclude that it is not the Spirit of Truth.


3. How did the Toronto Blessing arrive in Toronto?
Now let's see how the spiritual manifestations and phenomena, the so called anointing, that Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Rodney Howard-Browne were transmitting to thousands of people in the Faith Movement let's see how these things mad their way to Toronto. The key figures here are Rodney Howard-Browne himself, and a man called Randy Clark. Clark is the pastor of the Vineyard Church in St Louis, Missouri. In case you aren't familiar with this term "Vineyard Church," a Vineyard Church is a fellowship that belongs to a network of churches which look to John Wimber as their founder. Wimber is a leading American charismatic who became well-known in the 1980's for his emphasis on miraculous healing and on signs and wonders as a necessary part of effective evangelism. Randy Clark, then, is the pastor of one of these Wimber Vineyard churches in St Louis, Missouri.

An account of how Randy Clark received the blessing or anointing of the Spirit from Rodney Howard-Browne is found in the paper What in the World is Happening to us? This was written by Bill Jackson of the Vineyard movement to try and show that the TB is a good Biblical thing. Here is Bill Jackson's account of how the TB began:

    Randy Clark is the founding pastor of the Vineyard Christian fellowship in St Louis, Missouri. After years of seeing little fruit and power in his ministry he became desperately hungry for God. Hearing of unusual manifestations of God's presence through the ministry of South African evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, Randy attended one of Rodney's meetings in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Randy was powerfully touched and, in going home, began to see a similar outbreak of the Spirit among his people. [2]

That was in August 1993. So the "anointing" and the spiritual phenomena linked with it, which had been going on for some time under Rodney Howard-Browne, Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland, were now transmitted to Randy Clark. The anointing spilled out from the Faith Movement into the Vineyard Movement.

(One interesting point that Bill Jackson doesn't make clear in his account is where exactly Randy Clark went to the Rodney Howard-Browne meeting. Jackson simply says it was in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What he doesn't say is that Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the headquarters of Kenneth Hagin's branch of the Faith Movement, the Rhema Bible Church. Once we take that into account, it underlines the deep bond between Rodney Howard-Browne, the Faith Movement and the TB.)

Having received the blessing himself, Randy Clark then passed it on to the Toronto Airport Vineyard, at the invitation of its pastor, John Arnott, in January 1994. The meetings that Clark held in Toronto lasted 90 days, and were so powerful that the movement took off within the Vineyard network of churches, and acquired the nickname "the Toronto Blessing." The TB was given huge publicity, and Charismatics from all over the world (many of them unaware of the Faith Movement and its teachings) began flocking to Toronto to "see what God was doing," to catch the blessing and take it back to their own churches. The TB, swiftly became a global phenomenon, striking roots in Britain, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, everywhere.

Now the important thing to remember at this point is the origins of the TB. It began in the Faith Movement. It began in a context of destructive and poisonous error. But now here are men like Randy Clark and John Arnott, who do not accept any of the heresies of the Faith Movement, happily and enthusiastically embracing the spiritual power that is at work in the Faith Movement. The false spirit that operates in the Faith Movement, zapping people, making them fall over and laugh and so on, all amid the most dreadful twisting and distorting of Scripture—that same false spirit has now been welcomed, accepted and endorsed by many of the Vineyard churches of John Wimber, and from them it has gone out into the charismatic and Pentecostal churches on a worldwide basis. They say it is God refreshing and renewing His Church. A more honest verdict would be that it is one of the worst delusions ever to afflict the professing Church of Jesus Christ. [N.B. Here, as elsewhere, the author is of course not using the term "Church" in the sense that it is understood by Orthodox Christians, but as understood from a Protestant perspective—ed.]

 

PART TWO
We have looked at the origins of the TB, the claims that are being made for it, and the experiences that people have when they receive it. We have seen good reason to believe that it is not the Holy Spirit Who is at work in this movement, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, whereas the TB was born in Christ-denying heresy in the so-called Faith Movement. Now we are going to try and see what is really happening to people when they experience the TB.


TB experiences in other religions
The first thing we need to think about is the fact that the experience people have when they receive the blessing or the anointing from men like Rodney Howard-Browne—these experiences are not distinctively Christian in nature. By that, I mean that it is perfectly possible to have exactly the same emotional and physical experiences outside of Christianity, in other religions or other faiths. Let us take the emotional experience of feeling overwhelmingly loved. Rodney Howard-Browne lays hands on you and zaps you with this tremendous feeling of love. Is that a distinctively Christian experience? Well, before we decide, let's first of all listen to a testimony of someone who had this wonderful experience:

    He extended his arms, and I suddenly saw Benjamin Creme's face disappear, and in the frame of what had been his face was a completely different face which didn't look anything like him. It was a face that was a sort of golden-bronze sort of colour, with very large dark eyes that were very luminous, and very high cheek bones, and a longish face. And He also had a beard, this extraordinary Being Who was looking at me. I actually saw Him for the full twenty minutes that this blessing lasted, so I had a very good chance to have a very good look at it, at this face. And when His eyes came directly into my line of vision, I felt these tremendous waves of energy radiating from this Being, and striking me in the heart. And I was really moved, to the very depths of my being, because what I actually experienced was a tremendously powerful and very pure love. It was something entirely remarkable, to experience a love like that. [3]

That testimony by Patricia Pinchon could fairly easily have come from a TB meeting. She has a vision of a Jesus-like face: not uncommon in those who receive the TB. She is overwhelmed by a feeling of "a tremendously powerful and very pure love" which moves her to the very depths of her being. Again, very common in the TB. It changes her life, makes her into a committed disciple of Benjamin Creme, the "anointed man" who transmitted this blessing to her. And the blessing is transmitted by Benjamin Creme in a physical way he extends his arms and calls down a blessing. So it all has an uncanny similarity to the TB. But of course, as you will have surmised, it wasn't a TB meeting at all. It was a New Age meeting.

Benjamin Creme is a leading figure in the New Age movement in Britain. He claims to be in constant telepathic communication with a spirit-guide whom he calls "the Master," and he (Benjamin Creme) says his mission is to prepare people for the coming of the New Age Christ. He has a supernatural healing ministry and runs a New Age magazine called Share International. So Benjamin Creme, the New Age guru, is quite capable of transmitting this experience to people, whereby these beautiful feelings of love are channeled into their souls, accompanied perhaps by visions of a Jesus-like face. So I go back to my original statement: There is nothing distinctively Christian about the TB. It is perfectly possible to have exactly the same experiences outside of Christianity, in other religions or other faiths.

Just to emphasize the close connection between the TB and these other non-Christian religious experiences, Benjamin Creme was recently asked what he thought of the TB. His response was that he thought the TB was a good thing; it is, according to him, the method being used by his spiritual Masters to soften up Christian Fundamentalists to accept the New Age Christ when He appears.

Let's also think about the physical experiences that occur in the TB. Take the experience of being "slain in the Spirit," where people fall over after being touched, usually on the forehead, by an anointed leader like Rodney Howard-Browne. We have to say again that there is nothing distinctively Christian about this experience. It happens in other religions and other forms of spirituality. Listen to the following testimony about an Indian man by the name of Kumar Swami, a Christian working with Operation Mobilisation in India:

    His father was some kind of witch-doctor in a village. One day a few years ago Kumar's elder brother announced that he had received 'the power.' To prove his point he stretched out his hand and touched, first his mother, and then Kumar — both of them fell to the ground as though stunned. Immediately his brother received the veneration of all the villagers and set off to demonstrate his power in other places. [4]

So an Indian witch-doctor can slay people in the Spirit by touching them. The question is, which spirit? The other physical phenomena, such as hysterical laughter and animal manifestations, are also found in other religions. The great Hindu guru, Swami Baba Muktananda (died 1982), transmitted these experiences to his followers by touching them on the forehead:

    Manifestations included uncontrollable laughing, roaring, barking, hissing, crying, shaking, etc. Some devotees became mute or unconscious. Many felt themselves being infused with feelings of great joy and peace and love. [5]

Muktananda was simply channelling into his disciples experiences he himself had undergone. "Roaring like a lion" was one of his favourites:

    My identification with a lion had become stronger still. I roared so much that the cows nearby broke their ropes and ran helter-skelter, dogs barked madly, and people rushed to my hut. Sometimes I would zigzag along on the ground like a snake, sometimes hop like a frog, sometimes roar like a tiger. My mind was held spellbound watching the extraordinary inner moods-of the Goddess Chiti. [6]

The same kind of experiences are well-documented in the activity of other influential 20th century Eastern gurus like Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Yan Xin, and among various pagan and mystical cults such as "Subud."

It is naive and foolish to think, just because a person claims to be a Christian and can channel these strange experiences to people, that it must therefore be the Holy Spirit at work. As we have seen, there are plenty of examples of this power at work in non-Christian religions. But nowhere in the Bible did the OT prophets or the NT Apostles go around touching people on the forehead and making them fall over, laugh hysterically or behave like animals. People in the Bible did sometimes have spiritual experiences which caused them to fall over, but never as the result of someone touching them on the forehead. It wasn't a power or force transmitted from one person to another; it was a response of humble worship to God as He revealed His glory That is totally different to what is going on in the TB, where the power that makes someone fall over is physically transmitted from one man to another, often without any accompanying religious feelings at all. And in the Bible, when people fell over, they always fell forwards on their faces in worship, not backwards in mindless shock or ecstasy as in the TB and these other pagan equivalents of the TB.


The distinctive features of true Christian experience
Now at this point, let us ask ourselves what is the difference between the kind of experiences we have been thinking about, and a genuine Christian experience? Let's think particularly about great and overwhelming experiences of God's love. Christians can and do have such experiences. It would be wrong and tragic for us to react against the TB by becoming suspicious or hostile towards all experiences of God's love. What we need to do is see the difference between the false TB experience of God's love, and the genuine Christian experience. So let us try to distinguish between the two. Look at Romans 5:5: "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us." What is the difference between this and the TB? We can pinpoint two important differences:

(i) A true Christian experience of God's love is not transmitted physically by touch, or by a man "calling down" the Holy Spirit on people. Human beings, however godly they may be, have no power to unleash the Holy Spirit into the souls of other believers. The Spirit is not some sort of force at man's disposal, to be thrown at people or blown onto people. There is nothing in Scripture to support such an idea. Yet this is how people like Benny Hinn and Rodney Howard-Browne behave, as if the Holy Spirit were some kind of liquid they can dispense to people by physical means, like alcohol. Indeed the Holy Spirit is often compared to alcohol in the TB. "The bar is open," TB leaders proclaim. "Come and take a deep drink of the Holy Spirit." And when people do come and drink and then exhibit the various bizarre forms of physical response, they are often said to be "drunk on the new wine." Rodney Howard-Browne has brought this approach to dispensing the Holy Spirit to its most extreme form; one often hears him commanding the Lord Jesus Christ to zap people with the Holy Spirit. "Go get 'em, Jesus," you hear him saying. "Go get all those stuffed religious faces and make 'em laugh. Fill 'em up, Jesus!" It seems quite clear that Rodney Howard-Browne thinks that he has Christ and the Holy Spirit at his disposal.

By contrast with all this, Scripture does not teach any idea, or give any example, of people being able to (as it were) transplant the Holy Spirit by physical means into the soul of a Christian. The nearest we get to anything even remotely resembling this notion is that on two occasions in Acts, the Apostles laid hands on people that they might receive the Holy Spirit. These two occasions are found in Acts 8, where Peter and John lay hands on the Samaritan believers, and Acts 19, where Paul lays hands on the Ephesian disciples of John the Baptist. But in both these cases, these were people who had not yet received the Holy Spirit at all; neither the Samaritans, nor the Ephesian followers of John, had in any sense been made partakers of the gift of the Holy Spirit, until the Apostles laid hands on them. This was the very first giving of the Spirit to these people to indwell them as believers in Christ. So It is a totally different situation from the TB, because in the TB the people to whom Rodney Howard-Browne and others allegedly transmit the Holy Spirit are already professing Christians—indeed, they are charismatic and Pentecostal Christians, who would claim to have already received the Holy Spirit in a special fashion anyway. Yet apparently Rodney Howard-Browne is able to give the Holy Spirit to them all over again by tapping them on the forehead.

    [Editor's note—the Scriptural passages cited here by our author refer to the Mystery of Chrismation, see The Shepherd (Volume XV, Number 11, August 1995, pages 11-13 Saint Nicolas Varzhansky's "The Whole Armour of Truth " chapter 9, Concerning Chrismation). What he writes in no way contradicts such an Orthodox inference, although of course, writing as a Protestant and primarily to Protestants, he does not begin to address, and perhaps does not admit, the Church's sacramental theology.]

So even on the two occasions where Scripture does show us the Holy Spirit being imparted by the laying on of hands (which is not the same as tapping someone on the forehead), it is very different to the TB, because in Scripture it refers to the first ever reception of the Holy Spirit into the life of believers to indwell them, rather then some subsequent so-called blessing. And of course, in Scripture, it was the Apostles alone through whom God worked in this way. See Acts 8:18-19. The Apostles were unique; no-one today can claim the status and power they exercised. (In Acts 8, if Rodney Howard-Browne rather than Philip had been evangelising the Samaritans, he would not have waited for the Apostles to come from Jerusalem to lay hands o n the new converts. He would have It zapped" the Samaritans himself) [Editor's note: again our author's interpretation is not an Orthodox one, because he does not admit the Church's teaching on the Priesthood, and the grace granted to the successors of the Apostles to impart grace to the faithful throughout subsequent ages and unto the end of time. This is made even clearer in a long footnote which he appended here regarding Ananias and the baptism of the holy Apostle Paul, which we have omitted because it confounds his error, rather than elucidating the situation. The reason why St. Philip, one of the first seven deacons, did not minister the Mystery of Chrismation to the Samaritans was that, at that time, he was not a Bishop. However, Dr Needham’s essential point here is a true one. The TB leaders usurp powers that they do not have; they do not employ the Scriptural and traditional rites, and treat the "Holy Spirit" as if "He" were some personal commodity of their own—an idea which no minister within the Church would entertain and one which blasphemes the Sovereign Spirit, Who is our True God.]

To sum up: there is no Scriptural evidence that anyone can impart the Holy Spirit by physical methods into the soul of a believer who is already indwelt by the Spirit. Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne and their imitators have embraced an unScriptural practice which has degraded the Holy Spirit from being the sovereign and almighty God into a mere electrical force or power that they can automatically channel into people.

(ii) Remember we are looking at the difference between TB and a true Christian experience of God's love. The first difference is that in true Christian experience, the Holy Spirit is not channeled into our souls like some spiritual force by physical means such as touch. The second difference is that a true Christian experience of God's love comes by means of the truth. The Holy Spirit works in and through and by means of the truth. Let's go back to Romans 5:5, and also read the next three verses. Notice how after Paul says that God's love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, he immediately goes on to say that God's love has been demonstrated or made known to us by the death of Christ. God commends His love to us in this, that while we were sinners Christ died for us. So when the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with this wonderful sense of God's love, it is not some instant zap experience that bypasses the mind. What the Holy Spirit does is to bring home to our minds this great truth, that Christ died for us; He takes that truth and impresses it upon our minds, giving us a clear and vivid spiritual understanding of it; and by that means He fills us with a wonderful sense and feeling of how much God loves us. Our experience of God's love is a response to the revealed truth of God's love. The Spirit of God works through the Word of God; true spiritual emotions and experiences arise out of God's Word, as our minds are opened up by the Holy Spirit to see and grasp and understand the Word.

Let's consider some verses that show the centrality and importance of the mind, the truth and the Word of God in imparting life, blessing and sanctification to the believer:

    The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes (Ps. 19:7-9).

    It is the Spirit Who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life (St. John 6:63).

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (St. John 8:32).

    Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth (St. John 17:17).

    Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides for ever (1 Peter 1:22-3).

    But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of truth... The anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him (1 John 2:20-21 & 27).

These verses show that the Holy Spirit does not bypass the truth or short-circuit our understandings when he works in us, sanctifies us, awakens holy emotions, or brings us into fellowship with God. The Spirit works through the truth, through the Word, teaches us, enlightens our minds with true understanding, and in that way kindles and awakens genuine spiritual feelings and experiences.

Jonathan Edwards [a renowned American Protestant theologian, 1703-58—note supplied by the author] makes this point with great force in his Treatise Concerning Religious Affections:

    Holy affections are not heat without light; but everymore arise from some information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light of actual knowledge. The child of God is graciously affected, because he sees and understands something more of divine things than he did before, more of God or Christ, and of the glorious things exhibited in the gospel. He has a clearer and better view than he had before, when he was not affected; either he receives some new understanding of divine things, or has his former knowledge renewed after his view was decayed. [Edwards then quotes 1 John 4:7, Philippians 1:9, Romans 10:2, Colossians 3:10, Psalm 43:3-4, and St. John 6:45 to prove his point] Knowledge is the key that first opens the hard heart, enlarges the affections, and opens the way for men into the kingdom of heaven; Luke 11:52, "Ye have taken away the key of knowledge." Now there are many affections which do not arise from any light of understanding; which is a sure evidence that these affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high. [7]

What Edwards warns against here is what we see going on in the TB. Here, the Holy Spirit supposedly works without truth as His instrument. He directly zaps people into a state of joy or peace or feeling loved. But there is no truth involved; there is no enlightenment of the mind to understand truth. Truth is bypassed in favour of this instant zap experience. So the emotions and experiences that arise are not a response to truth, but a mindless explosion of feeling that has no basis in truth, or in a mind being enlightened to understand the truth. This is not the way that the Holy Spirit works; this mindless spirituality is not Biblical. The mark of true Biblical spirituality is that it flows out of the truth and is based on a proper understanding of truth. Our Christian feelings and experiences come to us in response to the truth, as that truth is found in God's Word, and as the Holy Spirit applies it to us with sanctifying power. That is why preaching and teaching are so important in the life of the Church. And that is why preaching and teaching have so little place in the TB. Truth to them is not important. The all-important thing is the instant zap experience. That is why it does not bother most of them that the TB originated in the dreadful heresies of the Faith Movement. That doesn't matter, because truth is not what is important to them; what matters is the feelings, the joy, the mindless experience. This is directly opposed to genuine Christian spirituality.

These facts sap the credibility of all the claims we hear of Christians being spiritually renewed by the TB to a deeper holiness. The kind of experiences we have been examining could not renew anyone to true holiness. They might (for a time) make someone more aggressive and confident in whatever beliefs he already held, whether Christian or not. And therefore it might lead to more religious activity—more praying, more Bible studying, more evangelising. But these things are not convincing proof of authentic growth in holiness. Where is the increased reverence for God? The chaotic clowning of the TB is calculated to destroy, not promote, reverence. Where is the submission to Scripture? Studying the Bible is not the same as submitting to it. Jehovah's Witnesses study it. But where has any TB advocate shown a willingness to submit his experiences to Scripture? I would also have to add, from personal encounters and conversations, that the claims to spiritual renewal made by the TB seem grossly hyped-up to the point of fantasy, if not deception. None of my friends who have been zapped display the slightest noticeable increase in holiness. And I have heard too many stories of people's moral and spiritual experience actually suffering sharp reverses after receiving the TB. The only fruit of the TB in a friend of mine in Kent was that she started to hear inner voices telling her to kill herself. (She has now renounced the TB and joined a non-TB church.) So let us not be taken in by these overblown TB claims to spiritual renewal. Like claims to instantaneous and perfect miraculous healing, few if any of them will stand up to careful Scriptural scrutiny.

At this point it is worth saying that many defend TB experiences, even the most bizarre and degrading ones, by appealing to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 11:11-13:

    Which of you fathers, if a son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.

The argument is that TB experiences must come from God, because He would not allow His children to receive false experiences when they ask Him for the Holy Spirit. But this argument really cuts no ice. What exactly are people desiring or asking for or expecting in a TB meeting? The answer is, a certain experience. In their own minds they have identified the Holy Spirit with certain types of experience, usually involving physical manifestations, So when an anointed leader "calls down the Holy Spirit," what he means is that he wants certain experiences and manifestations now to take place in the meeting. This is what people are "asking God for." The very asking, in other words, takes it for granted that the various emotional and physical experiences of the TB are the Holy Spirit at work. But we have seen many reasons to think otherwise. This kind of "asking the Father for the Spirit" is therefore a religious delusion from the very outset. It is therefore not very surprising those who open themselves up to the Spirit," on that false understanding that he will manifest His power through a certain experience, then undergo that false experience. Why did God not protect His child from the counterfeit experience? Because the child was already deceived. Well, we ourselves have the personal responsibility to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). If we do not carry out that responsibility by searching the Scriptures carefully and submissively, and testing everything against what Scripture clearly teaches, we cannot blame God if we then fall into deception and bogus experiences. That would be like blaming God for not protecting us against electrocution if we fooled about trying to fix a generator, without carefully studying the technical manual. Editor's note: essentially Orthodox teachers would reiterate what our author says in this paragraph, however, they would say that he does not go far enough and would doubtless insist on a more careful testing of the spirits, not only in the light of "what Scripture clearly teaches," (which, as we can see from the example of the misuse of the Lord's words from Luke 11:11-13, can also he "clearly" misinterpreted too), but by also applying scriptural teaching in the light of Holy Tradition and, if at all possible, by taking advice from a spiritual director.]


3. Hypnotic forces
We've seen, then, that in the TB we are dealing with a non-Christian form of spirituality which leads people into feelings and experiences which they could equally well have had in the New Age movement, or indeed in Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, or a dozen other varieties of Eastern mysticism. Now let's ask ourselves what it is that causes these mindless experiences of joy, peace and love, and the physical manifestations that go along with them, the falling over, the hysterical laughter, etc. The first thing that can undoubtedly cause many of these experiences is the power of hypnotism hypnotic influence. In the magazine, The Briefing, Tony Payne lists the following experiences undergone by people who receive the TB:

    Feelings of weightlessness
    Feelings of heaviness
    A feeling of being stretched
    Catalepsy
    Shaking
    Repetitive movement of body parts
    Rapid eye movement
    Changes in breathing
    Tinglings
    Alleviation of pains and diseases
    A feeling that body parts are changing in size or swelling
    A powerful feeling of energy or electricity coursing through the body
    Hearing a buzzing noise
    Changes in hearing
    Smelling a sweet aroma, like flowers
    Seeing a bright light
    Being aware of hot and cold areas on the body
    Feeling drunk
    Feeling washed clean
    A distortion in the awareness of time passing, age regression (vividly recalling and even acting out childhood incidents)
    Uncontrollable laughter.

Tony Payne then comments: "all of these phenomena are also well documented as being the common results of hypnosis. Subjects undergoing mass hypnosis regularly exhibit precisely these manifestations, sometimes by autosuggestion and sometimes spontaneously." [8] So here we have what seems to be one possible source of many of these experiences—hypnotic power and influence. It has been known for centuries that hypnotism can generate these experiences. Hypnotism is sometimes called Mesmerism, after Franz Mesmer, an Austrian doctor and faith-healer who flourished in France in the 1780's. He was in many ways the founder of modern Western hypnotism. Here is a description of one of Mesmer's meetings:

    Mesmer marched about majestically in a pale lilac robe, passing his hands over the patients' bodies and touching them with a long iron wand. The results varied. Some patients felt nothing at all, some felt as if insects were crawling over them, others were seized with hysterical laughter, convulsions or fits of hiccups. Some went into raving delirium, which was called 'The Crisis' and was considered extremely healthful. [9]

A royal commission was appointed to investigate Mesmer's activities; the commission was composed of members of the Royal Society of Medicine and the Faculty of Medicine of the Academy of Sciences. In their report, the commission concluded that "man can act upon man at any time, and almost at will, by striking his imagination; that the simplest gestures and signs can have the most powerful effects; and that the actions of man upon the imagination may be reduced to an art, and conducted with method, upon subjects who have faith." [10]

The most effective of the "anointed men" like Benny Hinn and Rodney Howard-Browne are arguably nothing more than Christianised hypnotists, who have reduced their Mesmeric practices to an art, and conduct it with method, upon subjects who have faith. As a result, their simplest gestures and signs can have the most powerful effects, and they can act on others almost at will by striking their imaginations. We can see this hypnotic element at work through the various "warm-up" techniques used by Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne and others in their meetings, to soften people into the right emotional frame of mind: lots of repetitive chorus singing, emotionally seductive music, getting people to hold their hands up in the air for a long time or to stare into each other's eyes, all geared to breaking down people's inhibitions and rational self-control. Then there is the all-important psychological climate of expectancy; people expect something to happen—they expect the Spirit to work, they expect to fall over and so on when Benny or Rodney touch them. So we can account for much that goes on simply through the psychological forces of hypnotism and mesmerism.
 


4. Physical power points
Another source of these experiences is found in Eastern religions and New Age spirituality, and that is the concept that there are various points in the human body where a mysterious energy is concentrated. This energy can be unleashed by those who know how to, simply by touching the power points of the body. I was in a New Age bookshop in London recently where they were selling a beautiful coloured diagram of the human body showing the power points. The main one is the middle of the forehead, known in Eastern religion as "the third eye." A Hindu master or guru will often transmit a Hindu spiritual blessing to his disciples by touching them on the third eye, with the result that the disciple will fall over. Interestingly, this is often where TB gurus touch their disciples, with the same result. Other power points are the top of the head, the top of the chest, the belly and the base of the spine. Again it is interesting that when Rodney Howard-Browne can't get someone to fall over by touching their forehead, he will sometimes touch their belly and the base of their spine at the same time. It looks as if he is hugging them, but in reality he is touching these two power points. Leigh Belcham tells how this touching of power points happened to him in Toronto:

    [H]ands were placed on my forehead, and then my abdomen and chest were massaged while the one praying repeated "More, more!" and "Drink, drink!" [11]

The question, of course, is, what is really happening here? Does the human body really have these power points which some people can tap into to activate by some sort of natural ability? Or is this ultimately a supernatural demonic power? Whichever way we take it, there is certainly no basis in Scripture for the idea that true spiritual blessing can be received by tapping into cosmic power points on the human body. This may be good eastern mysticism and New Age spirituality, but it is not Biblical Christianity. [See Slain In The Spirit and Related Manifestations (Compared to The Ancient and Occult Practice of A Kundalini Awakening in Hinduism]
 


5. Demonic influences
Finally, let us look at some aspects of the TB which it is difficult to explain in terms of hypnotic power. I want us to consider two testimonies by people who received the TB. The first is a man called Mick Brown. He went to Toronto and attended a meeting led by John Arnott, pastor of the Toronto Airport Vineyard. Here is Mick Brown's testimony:

    A body came falling towards me. I rested it on the ground and moved on. I found myself beside John Arnott, who was moving through the crowd, blessing people, who fell like ninepins. I didn't even see his hand coming as it arched through the air and touched me gently—hardly at all—on the forehead. "And bless this one, Lord...." I could feel a palpable shock running through me, then I was falling backwards, as if my legs had been kicked away from underneath me. I hit the floor—I swear this is the truth—laughing like a drain. [12]

The interesting thing about that testimony is that Mick Brown is not a Christian. He is an unconverted Daily Telegraph journalist who went to Toronto to write a report on the TB for the Daily Telegraph magazine, from which the above quotation is taken. Yet when John Arnott touches him, Mick Brown experiences exactly the same phenomena as all the professing believers. He is slain in the Spirit and laughs hysterically. Later he told a Christian newspaper that his experience had made no difference to his unbelief in Christianity. He was and still is an unbeliever. So we have the same physical and emotional experience, the same TB, but the person undergoing it is not a Christian. This prompts us to ask two questions. First, how can this be the Holy Spirit at work? Does He bestow the same emotional and physical experience on believer and unbeliever alike—slaying in the Spirit, uncontrollable laughter, a state of euphoria? If these things had no spiritual meaning or significance in the life of the non-Christian Mick Brown, how can precisely the same things have any authentic spiritual meaning or significance in the lives of professing Christians? Clearly we are dealing with an experience which is not truly spiritual in nature, but can be happily shared by believers and unbelievers alike.

[Also See Slain In The Spirit and Related Manifestations
Compared to The Ancient and Occult Practice of A Kundalini Awakening in Hinduism]

Second question: What is the power that John Arnott has to induce this experience in a non-Christian who has absolutely no belief that the TB is a work of God, since he does not even believe in God? It is difficult to believe that this can be hypnotism working on a suggestible mind. Mick Brown had not participated in any of the warm-up techniques of the worship, and had no expectation that anything would happen to him. Yet John Arnott touches him, quite by accident, and down he goes. This seems to point us in the direction of John Arnott and others like him actually possessing a real supernatural power. And if it is not the power of the Holy Spirit, it must be the power of an evil spirit.

The second testimony I want to consider is that of Glenda Waddell, a member of staff at Holy Trinity Brompton, the Anglican church in London which acts as the British headquarters of the TB. Here is Ms Waddell's testimony of how she first received the TB:

    [T]o my absolute horror I just knew beyond any shadow of doubt my hands were doing strange things and I was going to roar. I said, "Oh Lord, IT do anything but please, please, don't make me roar. Only the men roar and the women don't roar." But it came and I did roar quite loudly and I made a lot of awful noise and I was crawling around the floor doing terrible things and half of me was thinking, "This cannot be me." But another part of me knew that it was. [13]

The disturbing thing about Ms Waddell's testimony is that it presents us with a picture of the Holy Spirit supposedly at work which makes it painfully clear that it was not the Holy Spirit at work. By her own account, Ms Waddell was invaded and possessed by a power which reduced her to bestial behaviour, crawling around and roaring. Half of her did not even recognize herself in what was happening. There was no use of the mind involved in Ms Waddell's experience whatsoever. She was simply taken over, physically and spiritually, by a controlling force. That is not how the Holy Spirit works in a believer's life. He does not sanctify us by possessing us like a demon and forcing us to do weird, sub-human things. He works through the Word of God, bringing truth to bear upon our minds, enlightening our understanding and persuading us to obey. But in Ms Waddell's case, the thing she calls the Holy Spirit came at her like a predatory beast, seized her, possessed her, and forced her to roar and crawl about like a lion. Surely anyone with any spiritual discernment must see that this dark force was not the Holy Spirit. So what was it? Hypnotic influence? Possibly; but to me it sounds more like some real objective spiritual power that temporarily took over this unfortunate lady. Her experience is a chilling reminder of Swami Baba Muktananda's "roaring like a lion" under the influence of the demongoddess Chiti (see above—The Shepherd, volume XVI, number 4, January 1996, page 6). I do not believe that true Christians can be actually possessed by demons; but if demons can deceive us into thinking that they are the Holy Spirit, and on that basis can get us to open up to their influence, we can be seized upon and influenced by demonic power, at least temporarily. It is quite possible that this is going on alongside the hypnotic forces that are at work in the TB. [Here again Dr Needham 's beliefs about possession are somewhat at variance with Orthodox spiritual experience, but his main thesis is sound. Contrast for instance, the experience of Ms. Waddell cited above, with the dialogue of the Mother of God with the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation, which is recorded in St Luke's Gospel, and wherein the Virgin tests the experience and willingly gives her consent, "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38)—Ed.]
 

6. Summary and conclusion
I would suggest that we can account for the TB by a combination of hypnotic power and influence, and supernatural demonic power. To keep ourselves safe against such deceptive movement, we need a true understanding of how the Holy Spirit works in the believer; and Scripture leads us to the conclusion that He works through the Word of God, through the truth, and that the first point of contact that the Spirit uses in us is our minds, our understandings. We must therefore reject all so-called spiritual experiences that by-pass or short-circuit the mind, or are not produced by the spiritual application of truth to the mind and heart. We must make sure that we have a spirituality that gives a prominent place to our minds, to understanding the truth, and we must make sure that Scripture is central in our relationship with God, and also in our worship of God, through the preaching and teaching of God's word. Isaiah [Esaias] 8:20: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them."

 

Endnotes

1. HTB in Focus, October 9th, 1994, p. 12.

2. What in the World is Happening to Us, p. 1.

3. Radio 4 documentary The Second Coming, 9/4/92

4. Banner of Truth, May 1995, p. 19

5. Testimony of former Muktananda disciple Joy Smith, in Focus magazine 12, winter 1994/5.

6. Quoted by Tal Brooke, Riders of the Cosmic Circuit, p. 45.

7. Works of Edwards, Banner of Truth edition, vol. 1, pp. 281-2; emphasis added.

8. The Briefing 152, pp 5-6.

9. Richard Cavendish, The Magical Arts, p.180.

10. R.B.Ince, Three Famous Occultists, pp 107-8.

11. Toronto: The Baby or the Bathwater? p. 8.

12. Daily Telegraph magazine, 3rd December, 1994.

13. HTB in Focus, October 9th, 1994, p.12.

This originally appeared in The Shepherd in three parts from December 1995 (Vol. XVI, No. 3) to February 1996 (Vol XVI, No. 5).

Counterfeit-Bk

Index To Counterfeit Revivals

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